Murderous Mascots – Mysteries of Middletown Middle

Murderous Mascots
September 2020

“Coloring? Seriously?” Jeremy, the new fifth-grader, complained as he took out his crayons, eyeing the strange circular symbol carved into the corner of his desk. “We stopped coloring in second grade at my old school.”

“Welcome to Middletown Middle,” Jeremy’s tablemate, Ari, responded with a knowing look. “Don’t try to compare other schools with this place.” She drew the same pattern in her art.

Jeremy continued to gripe, lowering his voice. “And isn’t this school like a million years old? Why do we need to make up and draw a new mascot for it now?”

“It’s super weird here,” Marty, the third kid at their table, chimed in eerily. “The more strange stuff you look for, the more you find.” He nodded towards a bricked-over window near the ceiling.

“Example?” Jeremy’s curiosity rises.

Ari leans back, ready to spin her tale of the peculiar. “Okay, well sometimes you hear music in the cafeteria because that’s where the old band room was before the fire. And I’ve been in the girls’ bathroom—I’m talking multiple times—when the door opens and a girl walks in wearing a shirt with a big owl on it and disappears into the stall.”

Jeremy’s eyes widen, remembering a faded mural with a big owl in the hallway. “Same girl each time? With the owl shirt?”

“Yeah, that’s Bathroom Girl. The owl’s like her calling card. So you don’t get her confused with Roller Skate girl and Lost-and-Found girl,” Marty interjects, a smirk playing on his lips.

“Lost-and-Found Girl? She’s a ghost?” Jeremy’s voice quivers with a hint of fear but mostly fascination.

“She’s a ghost who wears clothes she finds in the lost-and-found,” Marty reveals. “She blends in. Duncan over there had a crush on her when he was in third grade. Her real name is Isadora.”

Jeremy wants more. “What else?”

Ari leans closer,  “You need more proof? Look closely at the patterns in the brickwork. See how they form these repeating symbols? Triangles, squares, pentagons? It’s not just random.”

Jeremy peered at the brickwork, noticing for the first time the individual bricks did seem to trace outlines of peculiar shapes and designs.

“Yeah…so?” he asked skeptically. “It’s just bricks laid in patterns.”

Marty shook his head slowly. “They’re coded instructions left by the school’s founders.”

Ari whispers, “We’re certain they have something to do with the mascot curse.”

“Plus, the basement level was used for super-secret government experiments,” Marty adds, his voice dropping to a hushed tone. “Before that, it was the Illuminati.”

Jeremy scoffs. “You’re making this up.”

Ari locks eyes with Jeremy. “There’s a book in the library about the history of Middletown Middle, it’s the only copy so you can’t take it out, but they’ll let you see it once you’ve been here long enough. On the cover are the same patterns as you find in the bricks.”

“The patterns are a warning about the heavens falling to earth,” Marty adds. “No one knows what that means. Maybe something about the evil living here. “

“It does live here. Inside, the book it shows the layouts of both this building and Dracula’s castle are the same ” Ari states matter-of-factly. “There are these drawings of secret meetings that took place here, every time something big happened soon after, like a war.”

 Marty leans back. “My dad says everyone who went to school here is afraid of the dark no matter how old they are. Don’t get me wrong; it’s got nothing to do with the ghosts and ghouls. It’s about the book at the warnings.”

Jeremy falls silent, his thoughts swirling “How’d Lost-and-Found Girl die?” he finally manages to utter.

Ari pauses, her gaze shifts to somewhere else. “It was the mascot curse.”

“The curse is why we’re coloring,” Marty chimes in. “The coloring calms us.”

 “What’s wrong with the mascot now? Other than it being weird.” Jeremy asks, his mind starting to grasp the eerie truth. “I mean, the lusca? Who has a half-shark-half-squid as your mascot where there’s no ocean? Schools don’t change mascots unless it’s racist or something.”

“Or if it killed your students,” Ari replied darkly.

“I can only draw tigers, so that’s what I’m gonna do.” Jeremy shrugs off the suggestion that mascots kill. He holds up his paper showing two tigers battling, one green and one purple.”

Marty leans in, ready to reveal the history of the cursed mascots. He puts on a serious voice. “Let me enlighten you, young Jeremy.”

“I’m older than you,” Jeremy interrupts. 

“Fine, let me enlighten you, old man.” Marty continues, to Ari’s amusement. “The school changes mascots every twenty years to avoid the curse. The rules around it are simple. If this school keeps its mascot for more than twenty years, it goes sour. The mascot turns on the students and teachers and starts hurting people.”

Jeremy asks.“You mean like the person in the costume?” 

“No the real thing,” Ari says. 

“I can draw tigers,” Jeremy stammers. “Kansas has no tigers.”

“Yeah, we do,” she replies. “At zoos, plus when the circus comes to town.”

“And people have ’em in their backyards,” Marty adds. “That’s what my mom said.”

“Tigers can kill people, and they’ll find a way to come to this school,” Ari warns. “You can’t pick something real that can kill. Even if it can’t kill.”

“Why can’t we keep the lusca?” Jeremy challenges. “It’s a mythical water beast. I’d like to see it try to attack the school a thousand miles away from the nearest ocean.”

“Don’t talk like that,” Marty whispers. “Words and symbols have meaning.”

“Then why even have one?” Jeremy follows. 

“Because words and symbols have meaning,” Ari responds. She leans closer to Jeremy. “Where are you from anyway? I thought everyone knew about the curse.”

“I’m from Nebraska,” Jeremy answers innocently. “And in Nebraska, they don’t teach the history of this stupid school.”

Marty’s eyes widen, his voice a mere whisper. “Shhhhh. This school listens,” Marty warns. “Back in the forties, Middletown Middle’s mascot was the killer bees. Twenty years later, a swarm of killer bees attacked the school; two students and a teacher died, and lots of others were taken to the hospital.”

“The Lost-and-Found Girl?” Jeremy asks, remembering the name.

“Yep. And nobody wanted to be reminded about the bees, so they changed their mascot,” Ari points a finger at Jeremy, “to the wildcats, since it’s like a classic nickname and something we don’t worry about here, right?”

“Right,” Jeremy answers his mind racing.

“Wrong,” counters Marty. “Twenty years after they changed the name to the wildcats, this guy from the zoo came to show off some animals, including a cougar. It got loose and bit off Benjamin’s leg.”

“The janitor?” Jeremy’s disbelief increases, “I don’t believe you,” he whispers, his voice barely audible.

“He’s missing a leg. That’s how he lost it,” Ari says, “You could just take the Middletown history class.”

“Okay,” he concedes, his voice quivering. “So, what was the next mascot?”

Ari continues to draw and color at her desk. Without even looking up, she replies in a hushed tone, “The twisters.”

“Well, that was stupid,” Jeremy mutters.

“Hey, my mom picked that! She wasn’t talking about tornados. Her favorite snack was these Twisters. Nacho flavored. They don’t make ‘em anymore.” Ari explains her voice filled with a mixture of pride and regret. “But yeah, they were stupid for letting it win.”

“As is written in the book of history, the winds of consequence blew too fiercely,” Marty says. “So fiercely, it took out all our t-shirts and school buses. It dropped a playground slide in the principal’s living room.”

Jeremy’s heart pounds in his chest. “So, that’s how they came up with the lusca?”

Ari nods enthusiastically. “Uh-huh! The school didn’t want anything that could actually hurt us. So, they went for something make-believe—a half-shark, half-giant octopus! Even if it was real, which it totally isn’t, we’re all the way in Kansas, nowhere near the ocean! And we’re still changing it cause of the curse”

Jeremy’s mind struggles to grasp the depths of this curse. “So, what are you drawing then?” he asked, somewhat dazed.

“Rocks,” Ari holds up her work. “Get it? Middletown Middle Rocks. Like, as in we rock.”

Jeremy shakes his head, and Marty rolls his eyes, adding, “It’ll probably win.”

Their teacher walks over to see how they’re doing, and the three fifth-graders quietly continue their drawings.


The next week, the school assembly fills the gym with excited students. Principal Sosa stands at center court, ready to reveal the new name. The band starts playing the theme from Jaws, adding to the suspense. The enormous sign featuring the hand-painted Lusca, which has loomed over the basketball court for almost twenty years, is about to come down. Across from it, a covered sign waits eagerly to be unveiled.

An eighth-grader dashes around, wearing a costume with a shark head and an octopus body. Its long tentacles trail behind, creating an animated spectacle. The students can’t help but mimic its actions, clapping their hands above their heads in unison.

In the uproar, Ari, Jeremy, and Marty huddle together, discussing the impending revelation. Ari leans in. “What’s your guess?” she asks, her voice filled with excitement.

Jeremy raises his voice to be heard over the rhythmic clapping. “What are the options?” he shouts.

Ari responds, her voice carrying above the noise. “It’s between ‘Rocks’ or ‘Mountaineers’.”

Jeremy chuckles, “Well since we’re nowhere near any mountains, ‘Mountaineers’ sounds pretty dumb. So, ‘Rocks’ definitely has my vote.”

Ari eagerly shows Jeremy her crossed fingers, a glimmer of hope in her eyes. “I really hope ‘Rocks’ wins. If it does, I’ll get a $50 gift certificate to the Middletown Mall!”

Marty nodded. “Too bad there’s no stores left at the mall. Still, I’m rooting for ‘Rocks’ too.”

Principal Sosa approaches the microphone, capturing the attention of the buzzing crowd.

“Are you all ready?” she calls out, her voice resounding through the gym. Excitement fills the air as the students cheer, relieved to have a break from their usual classrooms. Principal Sosa gestures towards the Lusca sign and the mascot playfully running behind it. “Today marks the end of our time as the Middletown Middle Luscas. Let’s bid farewell to our beloved friend, shall we?”

The Lusca mascot balls its fists near its eyes and makes a fake crying motion. The students wave goodbye, and the lusca drags its tentacles off the court to stand under the sign bearing its image.

Principal Sosa shifts the collective gaze towards the other end of the gymnasium, where a covered sign awaits its grand unveiling. Grasping the rope that secures the tarp, she addresses the eager crowd.

“May I have a drumroll, please?” Principal Sosa requests, her voice brimming with excitement.

A kid in the band plays a drum roll—not very well.

And the moment arrives, with Principal Sosa’s voice echoing through the electrified gymnasium, “Behold, the new nickname for Middletown Middle… Rocks! We shall now be known as Middletown Middle Rocks!”

A wave of excitement surges through the crowd, their cheers and applause filling the air. The blanket is dramatically yanked away, unveiling the much-anticipated sign – a brown rock. Before the positive energy can fully take form its interrupted by an eruption of chaos ensues.

A deafening explosion shakes the gym. An object hurtles through the air instantly creating a tear in the ceiling. With a chilling impact, it crashes into the sacred Lusca sign, shattering it into fragments. Flames erupt from the wreckage, casting a glow across the stunned faces of the crowd.

Sparks fly in the air. The celebration has transformed into a scene of pandemonium, as screams of terror drown out the the crackling of the flames. Everyone’s attention turns towards the shark-octopus mascot. The crowd gasps as they witness the costume’s long tentacles engulfed in flames. The eighth-grader inside the costume swiftly removes his shark mask and frantically runs in circles, the tentacles flying about attempting to smother the flames. However, his efforts only fuel the inferno, causing it to rage even fiercer.

People run in every direction, their voices panicking. Smoke fills the air, making it hard to see and adding to the confusion and fear that now dominates the scene.

In a moment of heroism, Benjamin, the janitor rushes forward. With a forceful push, he sends the struggling eighth-grader to the ground, protecting him from the engulfing flames. Armed with a fire extinguisher, Benjamin unleashes a torrent of foam-like substance onto the burning Lusca, resembling a fluffy cloud of whipped cream.

Benjamin looks into the audience for a long moment before tossing the fire extinguisher on the ground, he shakes his head and tells the onlookers. “One of you can do this job. I quit.”

The gymnasium falls into an eerie silence. As the thick smoke slowly fades away, the students cautiously survey the scene, their eyes widening with astonishment. Above them, a gaping hole in the ceiling stares back, big enough to drive a truck through. A beam of sunlight shines through like a spotlight highlighting where the remnants of the Lusca sign lay charred and broken.

Principal Sosa approaches the wreckage, curious to determine the source of the destruction. There, amidst the debris, she uncovers a surprising culprit—a meteor, no bigger than a baseball. With a mix of awe and disbelief, she raises the space rock high for all to see. One student claps and another says “boo.” 

“Middletown Middle… Rocks,” Ari whispers.

And so, Middletown Middle bid farewell to its use of a mascot. One symbol cannot represent a school like Middletown Middle. Ari did get her $50 gift certificate for her brilliant idea of the name.


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